Best of NHL: Capitals beat Rangers to clinch Presidents' Trophy again

Best of NHL: Capitals beat Rangers to clinch Presidents' Trophy again

WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored and the Washington Capitals wrapped up their second consecutive Presidents' Trophy with a 2-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.

As Metropolitan Division champions, the top seed in the Eastern Conference and the team with the most points in the NHL, the Capitals wrapped up home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. It's their third Presidents' Trophy in the past eight seasons.

Ovechkin reclaimed the team lead in goals by scoring on the power play in the second period, beating Henrik Lundqvist from his trademark spot in the faceoff circle. Kuznetsov scored off the rush in the third period, and the best home team in the league beat the best road team thanks to a 24-save shutout from Vezina Trophy candidate Braden Holtby (see full recap).

Sabres snap Canadiens' 5-game win streak with 2-1 victory
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Rasmus Ristolainen and Tyler Ennis scored and the Buffalo Sabres closed their home schedule with a 2-1 victory Wednesday night to snap the Montreal Canadiens' five-game winning streak.

Robin Lehner stopped 31 shots in a game the Sabres hung on to win after building a 2-0 lead through two periods.

Tomas Plekanec scored for the Canadiens and Carey Price stopped 28 shots in what was essentially a mean-nothing game between two Atlantic Division rivals.

Buffalo has already been eliminated from playoff contention to extend the franchise's longest postseason drought to six years. The Sabres did hit a milestone by finishing with a 20-15-6 home record to reach the 20-win mark for the first time since a 21-12-8 finish in 2011-12 (see full recap).

Late rally gives Flyers something to show for strong effort

Late rally gives Flyers something to show for strong effort


RALEIGH, N.C. – Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol commended his team for a complete 60-minute effort that was needed to overtake and defeat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 at PNC Arena on Saturday night (see observations).

“It’s an important two points, but I guess, as important I thought it was a really hard-working, start-to-finish win for us,” he said.

Placing Alex Lyon in net to lead from the back end, the young netminder made 23 stops, many critical, that allowed the Flyers to generate momentum to strike all at once in the third period.

Trailing 1-0, containing the Hurricanes’ speed and ability to maintain puck possession was a priority – somewhat of ‘survive and advance’ mindset to have in March.

The Flyers won 27 of 48 draws, a stat that eventually evened out, but was a critical one that the Flyers led in for two periods, before taking advantage of Carolina turnovers in the third.

 “It was a grind,” Hakstol said. “I liked the way we played in the first two periods. We talked about a couple of little things we can maybe improve going into the third, but the biggest thing was making sure we went out and got a big penalty kill to start with and just go back at it.”

For 40 minutes, Hurricanes netminder Cam Ward stymied shooters like Jakub Voracek and crease cleaners like Wayne Simmonds, among others, but the force of the shield he presented eventually diminished late in the game. The Flyers scored all four of their goals in the final 11-plus minutes.

While giving the puck away 10 times, 15 takeaways allowed the Flyers to regain possessions and capitalize on their chances when it counted most. 

“I don’t know if there was a catalyst,” Hakstol said when asked to identify the turning point in the game for his team.

“A lot of times it’s the simple, hard things that you do. That’s what it takes to score at this time of year.”

The win pulled the Flyers back into a tie for third place in the Metropolitan Division, a floating buoy line extending to the wild-card spot they will tread beside for the remainder of the season, unless they can compile more wins like this one.

“We needed a win for a lot of different reasons,” Hakstol said. “We needed the two points in every respect, but we needed a win for our group in here to have something to show for their hard work. When you lose games and can’t put wins together, the negatives really start to magnify, even though there’s a ton of positives. On a couple of different levels, this was an important two points.”

Both teams in wild-card spots keep close to Flyers

AP Images

Both teams in wild-card spots keep close to Flyers

LOS ANGELES — Keith Kincaid stopped 38 saves for his first shutout of the season, helping the New Jersey Devils improve their playoff positioning with a 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

Michael Grabner, Nico Hischier and Miles Wood each scored for the Devils, who moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division. New Jersey leads Philadelphia and Columbus by one point with both the Flyers and Blue Jackets playing later.

The Devils have won three in a row and four of five.

Jonathan Quick made 25 saves for the Kings, who are tied with Anaheim for third in the Pacific (see full recap).

Nutivaara's second-period goal lifts Columbus past Ottawa
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Markus Nutivaara scored a power-play goal in the second period, Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 22 shots, and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Ottawa Senators 2-1 on Saturday night.

Boone Jenner also scored -- his third tally in three games -- for the Blue Jackets, who have won a season-high seven straight and are holding on to the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 83 points, tied with Philadelphia and one point ahead of New Jersey.

Alexandre Burrows scored his fifth of the year and Mike Condon stopped 33 shots for Ottawa, which saw a three-game winning streak snapped on the second night of a back-to-back (see full recap).

McDavid's 3 points get Oilers past Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. — Connor McDavid had a goal and two assists in the third period and the Edmonton Oilers rallied for a 4-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Saturday.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ty Rattie and Adam Larsson also scored for the Oilers, who are 4-1-1 in their past six games.

Cam Talbot made 40 saves for the Oilers.

Frank Vatrano and Vincent Trocheck scored for Florida.

Roberto Luongo made 32 saves for the Panthers, who lost for the first time this season when leading after two periods (23-1).

With Edmonton trailing 2-1, McDavid scored his 34th on a shot from the right circle 38 seconds into the third period, and Larsson's fourth of the season at 6:13 gave Edmonton the 3-2 lead (see full recap).